Residents returned on Friday to two buildings on East Main Street in Meriden that have been condemned after a wall collapsed on Wednesday morning.
The wall collapse forced dozens of people out of their apartment buildings at 72 and 82 East Main Street and tenants were allowed to get into their units today and remove the belongings they can carry.
The collapse also forced several businesses out of their storefronts.
The collapse occured when water behind the brick façade froze, sending bricks tumbling down and collapsing the wall enough for fire and building officials to become concerned about the entire structure.
There are thirty-three units, but not all were occupied, officials said
Fifteen families being put up at hotels and moving expenses are estimated at around $2,000 each.
Authorities are providing them with listings of other available apartments because they will not be able to return.
City officials said they will put a lien on the property to cover the expenses, but the building might be in foreclosure.
Three families lived at 72 East Main and the rest were in building 82, officials said.
“A pretty-good sized chunk of the back of the building had fallen away. In talking to some of the occupants, it appears it could have happened as early as 6 o’clock this morning,” Chief Ken Morgan, of the Meriden Fire Department, said.
While the problem might have started as early as 6 a.m. on Wednesday, the fire department was alerted to the problem after 9:30 a.m.
Crews got people out as soon as they saw the damage.
Business owners, like Ellen Parks, owner of Dynamic Hair, were able to take a few supplies with them, but they could be out of this building for days, if not longer.
Morgan said this isn’t the first time the department has responded to this building. They were also there right before Christmas and a study is being done.
“In the past, we’ve had some concerns with the building,” Morgan said. “ We’ve been working with the building owners to have an engineering study done. We have not gotten the results of that building study done yet.”
Officials did not find the building unsafe then, but tenants said they’ve been complaining about issues for years.
“They were going to fix it. We used to call them and everything and nothing was done,” Lisa Quintana, a former tenant, said.
Premiere Property Management took over the building about four to five months ago and said it can’t speak to the years of complaints, but it was addressing current ones and plans were in the works to repair the gutters, fire escape and the back wall.
“It was a problem. We did bring some engineers out so they could give us a report and what we’d find in that back wall. We were going to start the project very soon, but I guess these damages beat us to the job,” Gabriel Mulero, a property manager with Premiere Property Management, said.
It is not clear if the businesses will be allowed back inside to run their businesses. A structural engineer will have to evaluate the safety.